The painter Arshile Gorky was born Vostanig Adolan in eastern Turkey. Raised in a poor Armenian farming family, Gorky’s childhood was shaped by two disasters: the first being the massacres of 1896, the second was the genocide of 1915, that affected the entire Armenian population, and which claimed the life of Gorky’s mother. Gorky was a seminal figure in the early years of the New York School and a largely self taught artist whose work combined both geometric abstraction and figurative surrealism. In 1920 after the Turks invaded his native country, Gorky immigrated to the United States. Gorky experimented in his art. He sought to combine memories of his childhood in Armenia with pure abstract painting. His earliest work showed the influence of Pablo Picasso and Paul Cezanne. After 1939, his works were influenced by the European surrealists and by the abstractions of Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Mir?. By bringing these styles to America he exerted great influence on later American painting. In particular, he had an effect on the developing abstract expressionist style of his contemporaries. In the forties, Gorky and his wife spent many months on her parents’ farm in Virginia. During these stays, Gorky became closer to nature and was able to better tap the memories of his Armenian childhood and countryside.
This can be seen in Gorky’s 1944 painting Landscape, which combines both magical dreamlike elements and sensuous one’s, with elements found in the work of the abstract expressionists. Shading and most of the other conventional methods are all but absent, instead Gorky uses unconventional methods. Such as Gorky’s use of delicate liner marks that not only evoke emotion, but also acts as an animated contour. Gorky applied transparent washes over the muted color, leaving visible both the tracks of his brush and large areas of the canvas.